The BlackBerry Curve 8310 looks almost identical to the older 8300, but this time around RIM has added support for GPS.
Our model was supplied by Vodafone, who has added the Telmap navigation service, which is much more capable than the standard GPS software supplied by RIM. Vodafone offers the handset for free on a £30 a month contract.
Unlike the majority of BlackBerry devices, the Curve 8310 is aimed at consumers. This means its designers have had to tread a fine line between making it look slim and stylish enough to appeal to non-business types, while at the same time making sure there was still enough space to accommodate the full Qwerty keyboard and large screen. The good news is that they've managed to pull it off admirably, as the 8310 is one of best looking messenger devices around at the moment.
RIM may no longer have a virtual monopoly on push email services, but this model is hard to beat when it comes to messaging. The email application is very straightforward to use and while the small keys on the Qwerty keyboard take a while to get the hang of, once you've had some practice you'll find they're much faster than the usual T9 predictive text found on most mobiles. We also love the mini trackball carried over from the Pearl phone. It makes scrolling through the main menus a piece of cake.
The BlackBerry devices aimed at business users go without cameras, probably because of fears about corporate security, but as this one is aimed at Average Joes, you'll find a 2-megapixel snapper on the rear. It has a micro mirror for taking self portraits and one of the brightest LED photo lights we've ever used, so you'll be able to take snaps in dimly lit conditions without them looking like they were shot in a coal mine. Naturally the amount of definition in the images is somewhat limited by the 2-megapixel resolution, but to its credit the shots do have strong, natural-looking colours.
For storage, you get 64MB of Flash RAM as standard, but the device also has an microSD card slot that accepts cards of up to 2GB in size, which you'll definitely need to take advantage of if you want to use the impressive music and video player application. Most smartphones have pretty poor battery life, but thankfully that's not the case here. You can expect to get a good four hours of talk time out of the 8310 and it'll keep ticking over for around two and a half weeks when left on standby.
The main problem with the 8310 is its lack of connectivity. It doesn't have the Wi-Fi support found on some other BlackBerry models such as the 8820 and like all of RIM's messengers it also lacks 3G. This means you're limited to GPRS speeds when using the browser and as a result surfing the Web is tediously slow.
The lack of 3G also has a knock on effect with the Telmap sat-nav service. Telmap works by downloading the maps into the device in one go before you set off, so if you lose the signal, like if you're in a tunnel, it can still provide guidance. However, by working via the 8310's GPRS connection, the maps take a while to download.
The other issue is that although the Telmap software works well, its range of features isn't as comprehensive as those you'll find on dedicated devices from companies such as TomTom and Navman. Also the screen on the 8310 is a bit small when used for navigation purposes and although the navigation feature is free for 12 months, after that there's a subscription charge of £40 per year.
We wouldn't necessarily choose the 8310, available for free on a £30 a month contract with Vodafone, over a dedicated GPS unit for navigation duties and the lack of 3G and Wi-Fi support is disappointing, but the 8310's slim design, full Qwerty keyboard and top class email features mean it's still an impressive messaging device.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire